Today, almost every business will be planning for digital transformation. During these periods of change, bringing in new skills and professionals with the experience to ensure projects run smoothly will be key. However, when there is pressure to get additional staff in quickly, sometimes the rigour or focus on assessing a professional based on their contribution to company culture is dropped – most often unintentionally. There are two potential impacts of this; increases in short-term attrition and shifts in company culture.
The reason for this is that firstly, the new recruits or the managers establish that this is not the right company for the new joiner. So, in the haste to recruit new staff as quickly as possible and compromising standards in the process, the wasted effort and overhead of having to then replace the new recruits who weren’t a culture fit, are significant.
On the other hand, new recruits may also change the culture as a natural consequence of not being a good fit. This is unlikely to be intentional, but if you have recruited the wrong type of person you will experience culture tension, which may lead to existing employees feeling discontent with the company.
To further explore how this can happen and the effects of failing to consider culture throughout periods of growth, we spoke to Derek Bishop, Director at Culture Consultancy.
“Significant growth rarely happens as planned. It’s not a linear process whereby sales of products or services increase exactly as you may have predicted,” Derek commented. “When that growth curve is exponential, particularly if the growth is happening within a short period of time, it can unintentionally lead to the emergence of a ‘firefighting’ culture.”
Understanding the risks of business transformation and growth
Business transformations and periods of significant growth are far from business as usual, which can cause leadership actions, decision making, and behaviours, to shift and focus on managing the increased demands and fulfilling commitments. Derek warned that this shift of leadership behaviour drives different behaviours and work practices right across the business. Decision making may become very short-term focused, having longer-term implications; approval processes may be dodged, and new risks introduced into the business. Workarounds introduced and processes are then not followed, which may require a re-work later.
“People start following the path of least resistance to get things done, which means quality, controls, management information, and governance can all be compromised. In physical work environments, health and safety standards can also be compromised as people cut corners under the pressure to meet increased demands.”
For example, if you are in a tech business, development teams may start cutting corners. This might mean they’re not documenting things properly or completing necessary checks, which then leaves you exposed to IT risks.
Derek also highlighted that performance reviews and personal development activities may also be suspended. This can form the beginning of a shift in the cultural norms and may send the message that people aren’t a focus or that important to the business. This is because leaders are essentially saying when things are busy, these activities can get dropped.
“If the leadership teams believe that enabling their people to be their best is important to everyone’s success, then these people performance and development activities should continue during periods of rapid growth just as they do when things are business as usual,” Derek explained.
Enforcing the right culture during transformation
Considering the importance of retaining key talent and how crucial the experience of employees can be in attracting the best candidates, businesses must ensure that they do not drop any selection criteria around culture and behaviours. To do this, Derek suggests to “review different ways in which you can assess candidates more effectively/efficiently to reduce the recruitment effort, but don’t skimp on the assessment of culture fit.”
Derek highlighted these key steps to ensure your culture supports business transformation:
- Focus on culture during onboarding - ensure your onboarding and induction still covers all the cultural content. Review how you deliver the content, but don’t cut the content.
- Demonstrate the business values and culture - the leadership team should spend more time with people, reinforcing the culture, and modelling the way. Not just talking about what’s important, but visibly demonstrating what’s important.
- Celebrate success through inclusive messaging - celebrate the success of the business growth, considering the results and the culture in action. Don’t just talk about the results and the growth – leaders should express how the culture and the way individuals work together, is fundamental in achieving the results and growth.
- Revisit then refine the culture - if needed and depending on the growth experienced and projected, you might need to revisit then refine the culture that will best support the business in achieving its long-term objectives. All businesses will have growth plans, but the best also ask the question: “what culture will we need to enable/fuel this growth?”
A significant increase in the scale of your business will bring challenges, but if your culture/work practices aren’t refined to suit the needs of a larger organisation, you may find your culture inhibits growth. Derek concluded that: “Ultimately, the culture and work practices within a business of 200 people will need to be different when it reaches a headcount of 1000, or 5000. Ask yourself: “Culturally, what’s helping our performance and what’s hindering our growth?”
When organisations go through periods of rapid expansion and business transformation, we would always advise that the leadership teams are hired first. The leadership team is where the culture of an organisation begins.
If you would like to explore how we can support you during change and transformation projects, and source the right people to best meet the needs of your organisation, get in touch with your local Page Outsourcing team today.
Business Development Manager, Page Outsourcing